HURT: Tea party not cause of budget stalemate

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

To hear Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tell it, this unprecedented budget crisis should all be blamed on the tea party’s supposed iron grip on the Republican Party.

“The infighting between the tea party and the rest of the Republican Party, including the Republican leadership in Congress, is keeping our negotiating partner from the negotiating table,” claims Mr. Reid, the master of farce who leads Senate Democrats.

Only a true political Ponzi schemer would twist facts like this with a straight face — all part of his party’s strategy to portray tea partyers and those who represent them as somehow “extreme.”

In the first place, the extravagant overspending going back decades and the spineless theft from future generations can be blamed only on the slick-haired jackals who have roamed the halls of Congress for years — both Democrat and Republican.

The breathlessly patriotic Americans who make up today’s tea party — wearing their red, white and blue sweaters and tricorn hats — can hardly be blamed for any of this. Except perhaps for not rising up sooner in armed outrage.

As for blaming tea partyers for the breakdown in the current budget process, Mr. Reid’s calumny becomes full-fledged fantasy.

Let’s review the facts.

Over the past year and a half, the vast majority of which Democrats held total control over Congress, Democrats failed to produce a single spending bill or even a simple budget.

When Democrats in the House managed to get a spending proposal through the lower chamber, those bills only went on to the Senate to die under Mr. Reid’s failed leadership.

Not a single spending bill actually made it to the desk of the president, who would have gladly signed whatever his party sent him.

Come November, voters — filled with tea party rage — booted Reid’s party from power in the House, severely curtailed it in the Senate and nearly tossed him out of office.

Uncowed by the voice of voters, Mr. Reid is back at it, playing the same games, blaming House Republicans and the “extreme” voters they represent for a crisis he was instrumental in creating.

As it stands, the only party involved in present negotiations that has actually produced a spending proposal are the very House Republicans whom Mr. Reid blames. That bill was not near enough to end the government’s fiscal crisis, but it was a good first step and certainly austere by Washington’s standards.

Of course, that proposal suffered the same fate as all the ones before it — death in the Senate on Mr. Reid’s watch.

Since then, he has done nothing to produce a viable alternative.

Instead, he talks about negotiating with Republicans from both chambers to cobble together some kind of grand compromise behind closed doors.

In addition to making a mockery of the message voters sent Congress last fall, Mr. Reid’s strategy is exactly the opposite of the open and honest manner in which House Speaker John A. Boehner conducted last month’s spending debate in the House.

But in the end, the only way Mr. Reid gets this done is the only way he ever gets things done. In a dark alley, where horses can be traded and vast amounts of your money can be used to buy the votes of individual lawmakers.

If history in this town is any guide, that’s exactly how this current impasse will be broken and next year we will be right back where we are now.

Charles Hurt’s column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at charleshurt@live.com.

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